The 20-Bucket System

A nonprofit professional learns to streamline organizational leadership

Sustaining a nonprofit can be challenging in any economy, but in a recession it can prove daunting. In Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit (Regal; $19.99), author John Pearson provides an action plan of practical strategies and proven solutions that organizations can use to move beyond survival mode to actually thrive, whether in good or tumultuous times.

Maxine B. Baker, president of the African American Nonprofit Network, a Washington, D.C.-area agency that connects nonprofits with a talent pool of experienced African American professionals, read Pearson’s book shortly after embarking upon a campaign to bolster leadership at AANN. “Any organizational success achieved in the wake of the economic downturn will be the result of effective management and not market advantages,” she says.

According to Baker, the author distills the complexity of management into a 20-bucket system; each bucket represents a core aspect of business organization including strategy, culture, people, program, budget, results, hoopla, and crises, and each needs to be “filled” with strategies that encourage financial growth and support the organization’s mission and business goals. The buckets are grouped into three categories: cause, which embodies the mission, program and constituents being served; community, which focuses on building, equipping, and celebrating stakeholders; and corporation, which focuses on the organization’s structure, human resources, and budgetary issues.

“The concept of ‘bucket filling’ is much more efficient than the outdated management notion of juggling balls,” notes Baker. She says Pearson’s efforts to move readers away from relying on individual management strengths toward practicing a more collective leadership genius are on target. “No one person can do it all. Today’s operations require collaborative effort from all team members. Having a list of core competencies serves as a yardstick and allows us to zero in on what matters most.”

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